AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 15, 2010

Health Care Reform
The House may take up the Senate-passed health care reform bill this week as part of a two-step strategy to enact the bill. The full House is expected to vote on the Senate's health reform bill at the end of the week.  House Democratic leaders are still trying to make sure they have the 216 votes needed to pass the bill. So far, the "whip" count is extremely close. The Senate will also have to vote on the reconciliation bill where a simple majority (51 votes) will be needed for passage.  The health reform bill continues to include the CLASS Act and Community First Choice Option -- two high priorities for the AUCD network as well as many other provisions that are important to people with disabilities (see a two page summary of the major provisions). AUCD signed on to a full page add in  Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, urging Congress to pass health care reform. 

The Senate passed a bill (H.R. 4213) that includes a six month extension of the increased federal Medicaid match (FMAP) that was part of the Recovery Act (stimulus).  This would help states struggling with huge budget deficits and faced with having to reduce or eliminate Medicaid benefits.  The next step is for the House to pass the bill.  The FMAP that was included in another Senate employment bill has stalled.

FY 2011 Budget
AUCD signed on to a Coalition for Health Funding letter opposing an amendment to HR 1586, the bill reauthorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, that would impose statutory discretionary spending caps for defense and domestic spending through fiscal year 2013. The amendment would essentially freeze domestic spending for that time, including a number of public health programs that benefit people with disabilities.

Today was the deadline for House members to sign the letter from Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Don Young (R-AK) urging their congressional colleagues to support the highest possible funding for LEND and UCEDD programs in FY 2011. Thanks to all those who contacted their Members to educate them about the AUCD network.  A list of signers will be made available as soon as AUCD gets a final letter.

Lifespan Respite Funding
Thirty-two Members signed the letter from Reps. Langevin and Terry requesting full funding for Lifespan Respite. Cosigners: Langevin (D-RI), Terry (R-NE), Oberstar (D-MN), Grijalva (D-AZ), Lance (R-NJ), Van Hollen (D-MD), Schakowsky (D-IL), Boucher (D-VA), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Rush (D-IL), Ellison (D-MN), Altmire (D-PA), Norton (D-DC), Scott , Yarmuth (D-KY), Titus (D-NV), Stark (D-CA), Baldwin (D-WI), Michaud (D-ME), Loebsack (D-IA), Frank (D-MA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Delahunt (D-MA), George Miller (D-CA), Kildee (D-MI), Connolly (D-VA), Wu (D-OR), Courtney (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Waxman (D-CA), Pingree (D-ME), Berman (D-CA).

The Obama Administration has released its
blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to help states raise expectations of students and reward schools for producing dramatic gains in student achievement. The blueprint provides incentives for states to adopt academic standards that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and create accountability systems that measure student growth toward meeting the goal that all children graduate and succeed in college. Although the Administration acknowledges that the primary funding for programs that support students with disabilities is through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it promises that its proposal will "increase support for the inclusion and improved outcomes of students with disabilities." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to discuss the blueprint when he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee during its hearing on ESEA reauthorization Wednesday, March 17.

Sec. Duncan announced Monday that he will ramp up equity and enforcement activities in the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Specific OCR activities include issuing guidance letters to school districts and postsecondary institutions around issues of fairness and equity; conducting compliance reviews to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities, such as college-prep curriculum or STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes; and reviewing disciplinary policies of districts and schools to ensure that they are administered fairly. Additionally, OCR will be collecting data on the use of restraint and seclusion as part of its civil rights data collection procedures in 2009-2010.

Entitlement Commission
Last month, President Obama set up a "National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility."  The purpose of the Commission is to propose policies that would reduce the deficit to about three percent of the economy, or GDP, by FY 2015 and develop ideas for slowing the long term debt.  The Commission will be Co-Chaired by Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY).  The President also appointed Honeywell International CEO David Cote; former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin; Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern; and Anne Fudge, who served as chairwoman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands from 2003-2006.  For Republicans, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) named Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and House Minority Leader Boehner (R-OH) named Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).  For Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) appointed Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND).  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will appoint Members to fill the three remaining slots. House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid have pledged to have Congress vote up-or-down on the Commission's recommendations before the end of the year.

Disability Policy Seminar
We need your help to build bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for high-priority disability issues!
The 2010 Disability Policy Seminar takes place in Washington, DC on April 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Major topics will include budget and appropriations, No Child Left Behind reauthorization, employment, transition to post-secondary education, and Medicaid, among others. Participants should be making appointments ahead of time for Hill visits all day on April 14.  Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on AUCD's Events website.  The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee will meet in person during the Seminar on Monday, April 12.  AUCD will also host a special reception for Trainees on Monday night (watch for an announcement coming soon).